GENEVA, NOV. 23 -- President Bush met for three hours today with Syrian President Hafez Assad, whom he praised for joining the United States "on the front line" against Iraq, and vented his growing impatience with Iraq's refusal to withdraw from Kuwait, saying, "We're getting tired of the status quo and so is the rest of the world."

The president made these comments in Egypt before meeting with Assad at a hotel here. After the session, the White House issued only a brief, written statement saying the leaders had "agreed that Iraq's occupation of Kuwait is unacceptable, as are any partial solutions."

Bush and Assad, the statement said, "expressed their preference for a peaceful solution of the crisis in conformity with Arab League and U.N. resolutions," which have condemned the Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait and called for Iraq's complete and unconditional withdrawal.

In his remarks in Egypt, Bush dismissed Israeli officials' criticism of the Assad meeting. Israel's defense minister, Moshe Arens, described the Syrian as a cruel dictator and said "misunderstandings could arise" because Bush would meet with Assad when he prefers not to visit Israel. "In the Middle East, the meeting is the message," he said. {Details, A15.}

But Bush said he hopes to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir when Shamir visits Washington, reportedly on a private trip early next month. Until today, the White House had indicated that a Bush-Shamir meeting was not in the offing.

The meeting here with Assad -- which according to Bush was urged on him by Arab leaders, including Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak -- wrapped up the American president's eight-day trip to Czechoslovakia, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Throughout the trip, the president lobbied hard for a new U.N. Security Council resolution that would authorize the use of force to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's troops from Kuwait.

According to the White House statement, Bush and Assad also discussed the situation in Lebanon and the plight of hostages held there, the Middle East peace process and human rights issues, and "held an extended conversation on the question of terrorism, agreeing to continue the U.S.-Syrian dialogue with the goal of achieving positive results." The State Department lists Syria as a country that supports international terrorism.

The session with Assad came after a morning meeting in Cairo with Mubarak, who was pessimistic about the chances of a peaceful resolution of the Persian Gulf crisis. "I have seen no sign of movement on the other side," the Egyptian leader said.

Iraq today began a call-up of about 150,000 reservists, many reportedly with combat experience in the Iran-Iraq war, being gathered into a Kuwait-bound reinforcement army of 250,000 men, Baghdad radio announced.

The Bush administration considers the participation of Syria and Egypt in the anti-Saddam alliance vital to maintaining Arab support for the coalition. Both have sent forces to Saudi Arabia while declining to say in much detail how their troops would be used if fighting breaks out.

Syria has pledged 20,000 troops to the Persian Gulf deployment, 7,500 of whom are in place. Egypt has 15,000 troops in place and promised 10,000 more.

At a news conference in Cairo before arriving here, Bush staunchly defended his decision to meet with Assad. Bush called Syria a "key" country in the region, and seconded statements by Mubarak, who officials said urged the session, that Syria, as a vital player in the gulf, should not be "neglected."

"Mr. Assad is lined up with us with a commitment to force," Bush said. "They are on the front line, or will be, standing up against this aggression."

Bush added, "As long as I have one American troop, one man, one woman left there in the armed forces in this gulf, I will continue to work closely with all those who stand up against this aggression."

The president acknowledged that the United States has "big differences" with Assad in other areas and that he planned to discuss these in the session.

Bush brushed aside several questions on Syrian support for terrorism. Some investigators have linked the country to the 1988 bombing of a Pan American airliner over Scotland that killed 280 people. Syria also is widely suspected of having instigated the 1983 terrorist bombings of the U.S. Embassy and Marine encampment in Beirut that led the United States to remove its forces from Lebanon.

Bush declined to answer questions when photographers were ushered into the beginning of his session with Assad, and he advised the Syrian president to do the same. The two were photographed together but made no statements after the meeting.

As he has throughout his travels this week, Bush continued the call for stepped-up pressure on Saddam. Today he said, "Steps must be taken now by all members of the international coalition so as to ensure that credible alternatives are available before much more time passes."

Bush said that at the United Nations next week, "we'll be discussing not only the need to consider further action, but perhaps a time frame." The United Nations will begin hearings next week on conditions in occupied Kuwait.

The language of a new resolution authorizing the use of force to push Iraq out of Kuwait has been the subject of intense negotiations during the past week between Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III and leaders of some of the 15 members of the Security Council. Bush said that "I am confident that we will be successful" at the United Nations despite Thursday's sharp criticism of the presence of foreign troops in the region by Yemen, which is the only Arab member of the Security Council and assumes the body's rotating presidency Dec. 1. The United States holds the chair until then.

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who earlier this week in Paris would not publicly endorse a resolution authorizing force against Iraq, said in Moscow today that he and Bush had agreed that "the situation is not becoming simpler, but rather more complicated. It has the potential for great danger, very great danger. This is not Vietnam or Afghanistan, it is very serious." Gorbachev said "time dictates" another Security Council meeting.

At the United Nations today, Soviet Ambassador Yuli Vorontsov said Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze would attend the meeting, special correspondent Trevor Rowe reported. Vorontsov said there was "a need for a strong warning so Mr. Saddam Hussein understands we mean business, serious business. He must go out of Kuwait, and we are not joking on that."

Bush and Mubarak issued joint statements of solidarity on the gulf crisis. The Egyptian president made no mention, as he did earlier this month, that more time is needed to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis, but did include a reference to the issue of the "plight of the Palestinians."

"In the right context," Mubarak said, the "rights of the Palestinian people must be brought under the proper focus."

Bush, asked about that later, said the United States is seeking a settlement on the Palestinian issue but added: "I am determined to keep these two questions separate. Saddam Hussein should not be able to hide behind the difficulty in one area so he can continue his aggression and brutality and torture in another." Saddam and others have proposed solutions to the gulf crisis that would include an international conference or set of talks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.